Losing All We Gain, But For One …
“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”
Losing all we gain, but for one …
Rationally, I know that I will lose everything that I gain in this life. Rationally, I know that I must die and leave this earth. Rationally, like Jaques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, I know that the seventh stage of this man’s life, given that I am lucky enough to live as long, will be “Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans everything” before my passing. You and I are thus destined to lose everything, – but for one thing. And that one thing is our spirit.
The easy thing about gaining stuff in life, material possessions, status, knowledge, experiences, is that ‘stuff’ has some kind of concreteness in a worldly sense. We know what we have when we renovate our house or get a promotion at our workplace. We can see it, feel it, speak about it, and so can everyone else. And the ‘markers’ of progress are clear. Bigger, faster, stronger, more beautiful, smarter … these are ingrained into our biology as firmly as our need to eat and sleep.
None of these things are gained (usually) without effort. So it is ironical really that we knowingly make that effort knowing full-well that we are destined to lose it all. Not just some of it, but everything. The words you are reading before you, and the eyes you are using to see them, are both destined to be gone. A hundred years from now, maybe ten, maybe even a year from now, all that surrounds you as ‘yours’ won’t be. No miracle of medicine, or sudden flash of superhuman powers, is going to change your inevitable demise as a walking, breathing, hominoid on planet earth.
I try not to cut my grass, while my neighbors cut theirs to golf-course shortness more than once a week. I don’t cut my grass because of my sense of the time of my life; if I cut it I am certain it will only grow up again in a short week and it simply doesn’t seem worth the effort. My neighbors obviously think otherwise (and, I dare say, wish I did too!). Similarly, I will skip reading a book that strikes me as too long, and I am miserly about my time being ‘wasted’ by idle and repetitive tasks or by uninspiring people. I don’t embrace all of life’s opportunities that come my way, in part because I recognize that my three-score and ten allotment needs conserving. I sometimes think it would be better to live as though I had infinite life to spend, as I see many others do, but rationally I can’t believe that.
What I do rationally believe, however, is that I have an infinite spirit to live. The one thing that my worldly life can enhance that is everlasting is my spirit. This doesn’t preclude living in the present, enjoying the abundance of earthly life, or efforts to make the world around me a better place. Indeed, living a good worldly life itself enhances my spirit. If it didn’t, God would not have given us this sometimes challenging, always interesting, and abundant world in which to live. But knowing that I will escape these earthly bounds with only my spirit makes me want to live knowing that I am spiritual. While I cannot countenance the aesthetic of a monk, neither can I countenance the crazy philosophical materialism of our “getting and spending” world. In part I do this because I know I already live in God’s world. And because I know that I will lose everything but for the eternal life of my spirit through God when all is of this particular man’s life is done.
Peter’s Thoughts for This Day!